South African rhino poaching halves in six months thanks to Covid-19 lockdown

The number of South African rhinos killed by poachers fell by half in the first six months of the year, partly helped by the nationwide coronavirus lockdown and disruption to international smuggling rings.

During the first six months of the year, 166 rhino were poached in South Africa, compared with 316 in the first half of 2019, Barbara Creecy, the minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, said on Friday, a drop of 53%.

“We have been able to arrest the escalation of rhino losses,” Creecy said.

South Africa has for years battled a scourge of rhino poaching fuelled by insatiable demand for their horns in Asia.

Most of the demand emanates from China and Vietnam, where the horn is coveted as a traditional medicine, an aphrodisiac or a status symbol.

The ministry attributed its success in slowing the rate of poaching to a decade of various strategies and supply chain disruptions that stemmed from national travel restrictions during a national coronavirus lockdown.

But Creecy warned that since lockdown restrictions have been gradually lifted and game parks reopened, so too has rhino poaching slowly increased.

In the three months from when a lockdown was implemented on March 27 until the end of June, 46 rhinos were killed across the country, she said.

Rhino horn is composed mainly of keratin, the same substance as in human fingernails. It is normally sold in powdered form and touted as a cure for cancer and other diseases.

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